07 February 2009

PS3: Valkyria Chronicles

Valkyria Chronicles for the PS3 is both turn-based and action-oriented at the same time. The game takes place on a fictional continent, Europa, geographically similar to Europe. The protagonist is a militia soldier of a small, politically neutral country (think Switzerland) with rich resources stuck between an Empire and a Federation going at it tooth and nail for multi-continental conquest.

So… music is good; in some games the music feels repetitive and distracting -- none of that with Valkyria Chronicles. I'd buy the soundtrack.

I like the art (sort of like animated water colours), it has interesting characters and the story is great: within the backdrop of war there is love and loss, friendship and betrayal.

What happens during missions is that game play is turn-based. You complete all your moves within a turn and then the computer goes next. Where the action comes in is when you pick one of your soldiers/tanks to move -- the game switches to a third person view of the selected unit and you move and shoot in real-time action-mode.

The game lets you replay particular skirmishes for XP and money, which is great because you’ll need to level up your soldiers and fund R&D of weapons and tank parts, but I’d really like to be able to replay all of the battles.

Battle scenarios are well done, and not always straight forward. Mission goals can change unexpectedly.

In one particular battle mid-way through a powerful, legendary being showed up on the enemy’s side – the despair as critical soldiers were quickly and spectacularly put out of action, and the urgency to adapt and complete the mission before all my troops were decimated, was quite real.

Some random thoughts:
  1. Now that I’ve made it through a significant part of the story, I wonder what would have happened if I had let one or two characters critical to the story perish on the battlefield at an earlier point.
  2. Some scenarios are quite tough, even after the first attempt and you have some idea of what’s happening -- you can save during your turn!
  3. If you can spare unit movements don’t waste them – they're tacked on next turn to the normal complement (up to a point).
  4. Having said that, keep moving forward. Both sides can summon reinforcements so it makes things much easier if you can take their base camps before they arrive.
  5. Taking enemy base camps is also a good way to move your troops quickly up the field. You can have a unit “retreat” at your original base camp and summon that unit up the field at the recently captured camp. This is often a quicker and less risky way of getting a lagging unit in to position.
  6. I haven’t seriously used any of Welkin’s available orders except “retreat”. Maybe I just don’t know how to use them properly but it always seems more useful to use the movement points to actually move a unit rather than use them on an order.
  7. When I go to the Cemetery I’d like to be able to actually, you know, visit fallen comrades rather than talk to the Old Man who teaches you orders, for a price.
  8. Once you see the enemy has "elite” soldiers, and you don’t have any of your own, play skirmishes to gain xp to level up your soldiers until you do.
  9. Frontal assaults have their place, but it’s better to flank when possible.
  10. For the longest time I thought the grade “A” was actually an “H”. What the beeping font are they using?!
The Valkyria Chronicles earns a 5 out of 5 stars.

06 February 2009

PS3: NHL09 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Goalie Kirk McLean of the Montreal Canadiens backstopped the team all the way to the Stanley Cup (16-0), defeating the San Jose Sharks in the final. Unfortunately, the Vancouver Canucks were taken out by the Sharks in seven in the Western Conference Final.

During the off-season McLean had several offers and opted for a 1 year deal with the Canadiens for $925k.

McLean’s career is on hiatus while I finish the alternate NHL-verse where LW Jean-Luc Picard is still in the regular season. After 66 games the Canucks have also clinched the division title with 113 points.

I’ve found one major bug with NHL09 for the PS3. Whenever a player reaches a +/- of 255 this stat automatically changes to negative 255. That’s right, if you play well in this stat you can expect to be punished. Picard has less than 20 games to make it back to the positive side of things.

At least Picard hasn’t been singled out. His entire line, (H. Sedin, Demitra), will soon be punished in the same manner, along with the first defensive line.

They better fix this bug, particularly as one of the skater goals is to have a +/- of 350.

05 February 2009

PS3: Fallout 3

I had some games waiting so I decided to finish Fallout 3 by focusing on the main quest – it went by quite quickly.


Fallout 3 for the PS3 is a great game (read my previous post for details). The ending takes the shine off slightly, unfortunately; the ending production matched the greatness of the rest of the game but personally it ruins any replay value.

SPOILER. Taking a step back, the ending feels very apt and flows well. Your father gives up on his life’s work to protect the baby you but 18 years later he takes up his Quixotic quest once again and perishes in the process. The son (you), alive only because of your father’s original abandonment of his life’s work, sacrifice your own life in turn to complete it.

So why does the ending destroy any replay value? I can garner no enthusiasm for playing a game, and even more so when re-playing one, where I’ll die at the end of it.

04 February 2009

PS3: Bioshock

I received Bioshock for the PS3 as a gift and so far it looks to be another worthwhile game. I haven’t made it very far, yet, but there are already some things I’m thankful for: the easy difficulty level and auto aim.

Bioshock is very spooky. Your plane crashes into the sea and you swim onto an island leading to an underwater city, Rapture, filled with people having taken self-genetic manipulation a step, or several steps, too far.

Bioshock is another FPS so I’ll be taking this one slowly.

No star rating until I’ve played it more.

03 February 2009

Happy Belated New Year

I haven't posted as much recently -- holidays and a relocation -- but I've pretty much settled down, now, at my new place and I've just about assembled all the IKEA furniture I can handle.